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Horizon Media Adds Sports, Events, Trading Ops

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New York-based independent Horizon Media has gone toe-to-toe with major holding company shops in competitive reviews of late, frequently winning. Now, in a bid to maintain momentum, Horizon is bulking up its service offering with the launch of several new units, including a sports marketing division, an events unit and a corporate trading operation.

With total billings of $2.6 billion, Horizon's clients spend around $300 million in sports marketing and sponsorships annually. Some of the bigger sports spenders on the roster include Geico, Corona beer and Ace Hardware.

While the shop has assisted clients on an as needed basis with sports marketing efforts in the past, now the agency is adding resources to expand the services within the offering and also to recruit new clients in the space. For instance, the shop will now begin to represent both athletes and venues and also seek the management and media rights for certain sports events, according to Horizon CEO Bill Koenigsberg.

Horizon has hired Michael Neuman (pictured), a co-founder of consulting firm Amplify Sports, to run the new division.

Horizon's moves are part of a broader trend by media shops to create specialized offerings that appeal to clients and drive revenue growth beyond traditional planning and buying services. Just last month, for example, Interpublic Group's Mediabrands created a new unit called Velociter, designed to identify and possibly invest in emerging media startups. Omnicom's OMD recently unveiled vc@OMD, designed to connect clients with entrepreneurs in the new media space.

Corporate trading, where clients exchange under-performing assets for ads, has been more in demand since the recent recession from which the economy still hasn't fully recovered. Earlier this year, two other agencies, Mindshare and Havas Media, established corporate trading operations.

Horizon's new corporate trading unit, dubbed Eden Road Trading, will work with an outside company, Evergreen Partners, headed by Gordon Zeller. Evergreen will handle client-asset dissolution and Eden Road will handle the resulting media transactions. Zeller will also serve as managing partner at Eden Road while Jennifer Moore McCutcheon, a 15-year veteran of the sector, has signed on as svp and managing director. She most recently served as vp at Orion Trading, the Interpublic Group corporate trade arm.

Two veterans of the space, Joy Seijas and Colleen Fitzgerald, will oversee the event marketing operation, known as Event Horizon, as co-directors. Seijas joins the shop from New York-based The Smile Train, and Fitzgerald most recently handled event management duties at Virgin Mobile. They will report to Neuman. The unit will help clients develop, design and implement an array of programs including conferences and trade shows among other initiatives.

"If we are going to be a truly 360-degree holistic communications planning agency we need to continue to build out skill sets that deliver the highest expectations and standards to our clients," said Koenigsberg.

And put Horizon in the ones-to-watch column, as it will unveil additional service offerings in the New Year.